Bolder is Better - Pharmaceutical Executive


Bolder is Better

Pharmaceutical Executive

Sifting the Data: Understanding Oncology Claims
Some campaigns feature other key end points addressing patients' aggregated experience, such as time to progression of disease ("progression-free survival"), as surrogates for true survival data. Others are limited to physical tumor characteristics, measured by response—such as if tumors disappeared (complete response) or shrank (partial response). (For a guide to cancer treatment claims, see "Sifting the data: Understanding oncology claims".)

Unlike many campaigns for conventional pharmaceuticals, few oncology ads attempt to differentiate products based on subgroup analyses of specific patient populations, a practice sometimes disparaged as "data-dredging" by statisticians. This likely reflects the fact that smaller sample sizes, typical in oncology trials, often make subgroups too tiny for meaningful patterns to appear. More significant is the relative absence of claims of superiority based on an excellent tolerability, adverse events profile, or other quality-of-life data. In contrast to so many non-cancer drug ads, none of the advertising Flashpoint reviewed described a "balance" of efficacy and safety. To oncologists, it seems, efficacy nearly always comes first.

Trend #2: Patients are people too

Data alone can be cold and dispassionate; it's hard own a space in physicians' hearts with numbers alone. As oncology marketing matures, it is tapping the power of emotion to drive brand choices. Today, marketers recognize that when oncologists have multiple options, the brand with emotional power is most often remembered—and selected. One way to make strong data personal is by using imagery of real people in advertising campaigns. Judging by the numbers of campaigns using this approach, it's a trend that's growing.

Genentech's Herceptin (trastuzumab) shows photographs of actual breast cancer patients who are happy and healthy enough to exercise. (All the patients are dressed in shades of pink and black, and bold bands of magenta echo similarly colored headline type to ensure that the drug name, Herceptin, stands out.) Copy links the drug's "landmark studies" to "perseverance," and a K-M curve shows how much delay in disease recurrence specialists and their patients can expect when the product is used as an adjuvant to surgery in appropriate patients.

Indeed, emotionality figures prominently in many of today's oncology ads, even when data take a back seat. The challenge for marketers is to ensure these depictions are distinctive and memorable for their brand and don't fall into the clichés of patient walking on a beach or in a field of flowers—or other picturesque scenery typical of direct-to-consumer advertising. In the campaigns for BMS' Sprycel (dasatinib) and GlaxoSmithKline's Tykerb (lapatinib), ad headlines voice the patient's "thoughts." "I am turning to SPRYCEL" thinks a greying gentleman, while in the Tykerb ad we see the profile of a grey-haired woman with the text "I want more."

Are these patients' images rendered or photographed in a sufficiently attention-getting way to help their brand stand out? Is the device of the patient's intentions or pleas likely to make an impact on an oncologist's decision-making? Consistency in execution doesn't necessarily guarantee memorability if the consistently repeated idea lacks a compelling core.


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